A tiny Swiss village threatened with extinction after an exodus of residents has come up with a novel way of turning around its fortunes.
Albinen, a picturesque village near Leukerbad in Valais, has seen its population shrink to just 240. The local school has been forced to close and many of the houses in the village are used as holiday homes, laying empty for much of the year.
Now residents are set to vote on a proposal that would offer new families cash to settle there in a bid to revitalize the village. Adults can expect to be offered 25,000 francs each (21,500 euros) while children would receive 10,000 francs (8,500 euros), a total of 60,000 euros for a family of four.
There are conditions attached to the deal. Prospective residents must be under the age of 45 and be prepared to stay for at least ten years. The property they buy or build must also be worth at least 200,000 francs (171,500 euros) and is required to be their primary residence.
The village authorities behind the plan are convinced the policy is affordable and that it represents a real investment in the future of Albinen, despite the initial outlay.
Anyone taking up the offer will certainly benefit from some bracing mountain air and incredible views over the Rhone Valley. Jobs in the village are scarce but the towns of Visp and Sion are just a short drive away, with Bern around two hours by train or car and Geneva just under three hours away.
Albinen isn’t the only Swiss village to find itself in the news recently. The tiny village of Corippo, population just 13, has just announced plans to turn itself into a giant hotel in a bid to stave off extinction.
Why is Albinen making this move?
The main reason is to increase its number of residents. Right now, the population, which continues to dwindle, is only 240. With many of the residents leaving their village, the village officials want to ensure that they will improve their economy by bringing in new residents. Most of those leaving the village are young people, particularly those with families of their own. The recent departures caused the closure of the local school.
What prompts people to leave Albinen? The place is very habitable, it has scenic views that are IG-worthy, it’s clean and peaceful, and you inhale pollution-free air.
Here are some of the things you have to consider before you lodge in your application.
- The village is relatively small. Its total size is 6.01 square miles or 15.56 square kilometers. About 10% of the land is not suitable for agriculture.
- The location is about 4,300 feet or 1,300 meters above sea level.
- Only 16 people live within one square kilometer.
- Jobs are scarce. The annual subsidy given by the town for its residents is not enough.
- Albinen is hopeful they can attract at least 10 families to move to their village within the next few years. They are allocating $100,000 annually for the project.
- To qualify, the applicant has to be at least under 45 years of age.
- The applicant must be willing to invest a minimum of US$201,600 or 200,000 francs to buy or build a home, which should be the applicant’s primary and permanent home.
- The agreement is that the applicant should be willing to stay in Albinen for 10 years. Should the successful applicant decide to leave Albinen before the end of the contract, they have to pay back the monetary incentive given to them in full.
- One of the most important considerations is residency. The foreign applicant has to secure the Swiss C permit or the permanent residency permit. This means you have to apply as an immigrant and receive the residency permit in order to qualify to stay in Albinen. Some of the conditions for non-EU residents to acquire a Swiss C permit:
- Has lived in Switzerland continuously for 12 years
- Has continuous residence in Switzerland for 5 years using a B permit
- Married to a Swiss citizen
- Submission of other required documentation for immigration such as clean criminal and debt records and certification of proficiency in the German language
Note: The Swiss passport is one of the most difficult passports to get.
The response from many parts of the world to the Albinen initiative was overwhelming. The office of Mayor Beat Jost was inundated with phone inquiries. The Albinen authorities were quick to correct the media though, for what they believed was misleading media coverage. According to the local officials, the story that came out in the media indicated that it is easy to apply for the initiative, as the conditions attached to the offer were not clearly explained.